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Chalmers suggests that the data we use in studying consciousness is divided into roughly two categories:

  • third-person data about behavior and brain processes - specific behavioral and neural phenomena
  • first-person data about subjective experience - specific subjective phenomena

In the third-person data category, Chalmers lists the following:

  • perceptual discrimination of external stimuli
  • the integration of information across sensory modalities
  • automatic and voluntary actions
  • levels of access to internally represented information
  • verbal reportability of internal states
  • the differences between sleep and wakefulness

In first-person data:

  • visual experience (e.g. the experience of color and depth)
  • other perceptual experiences (e.g. auditory and tactile experience)
  • bodily experiences (e.g. pain and hunger)
  • mental imagery (e.g. recalled visual images)
  • emotional experience (e.g. happiness and anger)
  • occurrent thought (e.g. the experience of reflecting and deciding)

For a theory of consciousness to be complete, Chalmers suggests that an adequate explanation must be provided both for third-person and first-person data.

Here there are some difficulties. Chalmers (see 2nd-listed resource) categorises the problems of explaining third-person data as "easy problems" of consciousness, and the problem of explaining first-person data as the "hard problem" of consciousness. I find it really interesting thinking about how this fits in with observation.

When I think about the observation of consciousness, it seems to me that the only observations we have direct access to are of the subjective consciousness of our own minds. The consciousness of other minds is inaccessible. Thus it looks like the only genuine data we have about consciousness (at least in terms of the 'hard problem') is necessarily subjective.

Perhaps, given that external information can only reach us indirectly (i.e. through senses, etc.), the only direct observations of consciousness we actually make are those of our subjective consciousness?

If this is the case, it seems kind of strange to me that the 'hard problem' of consciousness is the only problem for which we have direct observational data...whereas bits of data relating to the 'easy problems' of consciousness are gained indirectly...

^ patchy thoughts, will need to think about this more

I like all of this. I'm TEMPTED to agree that "The consciousness of other minds is inaccessible", but actually I think it's more helpful phrase it in a more modest way: to say only that it's not DIRECTLY accessible. The reason is that if you count anything that's not DIRECTLY assessible as inaccessible then almost all of our first-person experience is also inaccessible. Because almost all of our first-person experience is remembered, and memory is famously inaccurate. So if you go for the more bold statement, then only our current experiences (including the memories we're currently having) are accessible. That might be true, but I think the other way of looking at it is probably more fruitful. This might be worth discussing in IM or on the phone or something. Jason